Sunday, September 26, 2010

Science Fun

I've come to realize that I can't go high tide on more than one area at once. I can do lots of great Civil War stuff, while still continuing in Math, English, and other basics, for example, but if I try to start a big Chemistry unit at the same time, we're doomed.

I actually have a plan for a big Chemistry unit, but I doubt we'll get there until January. Does that mean no Science? Not at all. We've been having a great time with Planet Earth, and we've discovered (thank you, Ida!) Lyrical Life Science!

We've been having a great time listening to these in the car. They are simply jam packed with real information set to catchy folk tunes. They teach an unbelievable amount of information! Even when the kids don't understand everything they are singing, it starts great conversations in which I can explain things (last week, they asked, "What is RNA?"). You can get (middle to high school level) textbooks and workbooks to go with them, but I've skipped them, so far.

One favorite is "Protazoa, Also Called Protista." It goes through the kinds of protozoa, classifying them by their method of movement and listing examples. It's sung to "Listen to the Mockingbird." I think one reason why the songs work so well, is that they are all classic, catchy folk tunes sung well - they really stick in your head!

Anyway, Volume 1 is Bacteria to Birds, Volume 2 is Mammals and Biomes, Volume 3 is The Human Body (we haven't started that one yet) and they have an Earth Science one also.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. Mxyl lost his last baby tooth (sniff!)! For the last visit from the Tooth Chicken, he got two exciting things: an invitation to join the Elite Forces of Tooth Chickendom, and the game Chicken Invaders 3. Much mayhem ensued.

2. Choclo loves Chicken Invaders. He wanders about making (surprisingly loud) chicken noises at random moments. When I get upset about this (or anything else), he strokes my arm and says in a loving tone, "Don't worry, Mommy, the chicken likes you!" and then gives me a kiss, causing me to melt into a puddle of goo (or maybe egg?).

3. We have been having an amazing time with the BBC series Planet Earth. My Grammie Ann had seen the more recent series, Life, and had suggested it to me, but it's a little more graphic than this one. Planet Earth focuses less on gore and more on the stunning wonder of the biomes on the planet. The photography is jaw dropping and all the Zoomlians are fascinated. One thing they do show (which had me worried) is the Great White Sharks hunting seals. They leap up from under the seal clear out of the water. I was worried it was a bit too much for my Lil' Guys. To my surprise, Choclo exclaimed, "It's Choclo the Shark!" Oob, naturally, claimed, "No! It's Oob the Shark!"

4. Speaking of Oob, this morning he wandered into my bedroom and told me, "I have a biskeeto bite. I need a band-aid on my biskeeto bite." This gave me the mental picture of tiny, flying, blood sucking, biscuits, and I had to go off and laugh. By the time I came back, Klenda had covered the >iskeeto bite with the first band-aid that came to hand: one of those 4" x 2" big ones that wrapped half way around his leg. Well, it did cover the tiny bump, and he's been happy ever since.

5. Math U See is great. Life of Fred is fantastic! But for real math fun, get the Three Stooges

UPDATE: I mean Abbot and Costello, of course! I obviously to further my edjucation. I was thinking of this, which Klenda has been walking around singing:

6. Every so often, we get stuck with a misquote. Right now it's Oob, with a strong (fake) Italian accent, saying, "Mamma me!" over and over again. And it's Klenda, who, upon discovering the emergency of the day, will tell me with a serious tone, "Winston, we have a problem." I think she just likes to see me gnash my teeth and holler, "Houston! It's Houston! Winston is the Prime Minister of England during World War II!!! Uhhh... What's wrong?"

7. It's The Emperor's birthday! And it's a furlough day, so he's home to celebrate it properly!!!! We will be celebrating with Ultimate 5 Way Fun Blocks! Happy Birthday to the sweetest, handsomest, wittiest, BEST husband on this planet (or any other)!

More with Jen!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Apple Picking, Almost

With the return of the cool weather, we made our semi annual trip up to Larriland to pick apples.

Mea culpa, I didn't check before hand, and the apple picking wasn't starting until the next day...

So, we (The Emperor, the Zoomlians and I) had a lovely time picking raspberries. It was a picture perfect day: warm sun, cool breeze, blue skies and surrounded by sweet jewels of fruit.

That's a day that I want to always remember... Which I will have to do myself since I forgot my camera. Fortunately, The Queen Mum (The Emperor's mom) had brought her camera. Unfortunately, it was out of batteries... sometimes you just have to enjoy the moment, I guess!

We picked 7 pounds of raspberries and went home to the unheard of indulgence of having as many raspberries as we liked! I don't believe I've ever had that pleasure before!

Jam was a possibility, of course, but we instead ate half as raspberry shortcake, and half as (just) raspberries with whipped cream. Bliss!

We did pick broccoli, too. The main problem with picking broccoli is that every Zoomlian wants to pick a large head for themselves, and while fresh broccoli is lovely, I couldn't see us eating fifteen pounds of it with whipped cream, for example.

We did buy a half bushel of mixed apples at "The Big Red Barn."

And we bought my favorite squash! It's called Banana Squash, although to me it doesn't say "banana," possibly because it's 3 feet long and pinkish. I bought one more or less accidently one year and found it made the best "pumpkin" pie I'd ever had. I cooked it down today and got 18 cups: 9 pies! (I don't make them all at once, I freeze it in portions)

Realistically, it was a perfect trip: we got to see a working farm in action, we got to see how food grows in a tended field, and we got to see that when we don't get what we plan for, we can still have a wonderful time.

Besides, would you rather eat an apple or a bowl of raspberries?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Choclo, Six Month

I missed one!

My name is Choclo. I am 5.
My favorite color is black.
My favorite animal is a rooster.
My favorite food is some bacon.
I also like popcorn!
My favorite book to read is Lollipops.
I like to read Bob Books.
I love The Periodic Table.
I like to see Zorg see a whale.
I like truck videos.
I like to play with my street sweeper.
I like to watch Professor Fizzwizzle 2.
I love doing Puzzle Buzz with Mommy and Daddy.
I like to go to playgrounds.
I like to pray.
I like to go see Jesus!
I like to make chocolate chip cookies.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

US History: Gold and War

My thinking about history has been heavily influenced by my friend, Fr. Mark. He is a particularly brilliant person and the only natural historian I've met (besides being a particularly fine human being and a great priest- a rare find, indeed!). By "brilliant," I mean he got his doctorate (with distinction) by taking 2 years of classes and writing the dissertation in a few months while teaching a full load of classes. By "natural historian," I mean that he naturally looks at everything he encounters from a historical perspective. This is the sort of person I love to talk to about homeschooling stuff - talk about striking gold!

His perspective on history is fascinating: he sees history as a series of moral choices and consequences. He, in turn, is heavily influenced by Plutarch's Lives - a book which is often used for history but was intended as morality (remember our Plutarch Party?). Anyway, we've been looking at US History through this lens and I'm starting to see it really pay off.

This week we went "high tide" with history. We started with the Trail of Tears and the Indian Removal Act with a lot of conversation about why governments sometimes make immoral choices and how some choices can't be unmade. How much are we responsible for the choices made before we are born? We also talked about Andrew Jackson and how someone can do some good things and some bad things (he was the hero of New Orleans in the decisive battle of the War of 1812, but he went on to ignore the Supreme Court when it told him his Indian Removal Act was unconstitutional).

We went on to the Gold Rush of 49, with a lot of conversation about "getting rich quick" and greed. We've also looked at the Potato Famine and the problems with religious and political conflict in Ireland. We looked more closely at the flood of immigration between 1840 and 1860 and the back lash of the "Know Nothings" and other anti-immigration sentiment. I feel like I'm reading the back story of today's immigration debate. It's horribly ironic to read about the Indian Removal Act and have the same people fight against immigrants coming and taking their land...

I feel like I'm learning so much. I never really saw that the immigration was tied to the Civil War, but really, the North kept growing, economically as well as in population, through immigration. All those immigrants settled in the North because the jobs they would have done in the South were being done by slaves (besides, slavery was repugnant: the immigrants had just escaped oppressive regimes that wouldn't stoop so low as to allow slavery).

Meanwhile the South stagnated because of slavery. Cotton was so profitable when using slaves that there was no incentive to try anything else, but it was the North that bought the cotton and wove it into cloth. It was carried by Northern ships and the cloth sold by Northern traders. It was the North that was building factories and railroads.

We've talked a lot about why people make certain choices. Were the Northerners so much more virtuous? How much harder is it to oppose an immoral choice that you "benefit" from? How much are we affected by the consequences of our choices? What about the consequences you can't predict? What do you do if a law requires you to do something immoral (like the Fugitive Slave Act)?

All those choices and all those consequences. It's been a week of heavy conversations, but it's been fantastic!

For those following along at home (Hi, Grammie!) we are on page 150 of The Story of America.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oob Six Month

My name is Oob. I am 3.
I love red!
I just like to eat dinner.
I like horsies.
I like to go outside with Blue Streak and White Knight.
I like to play Frisbee, Frisbee is nice.
Sand box is nice and bubbles are nice and the tree is nice.
I like stories about Luke.
I like to sit on your lap. I like books about animals.
I like animals best.
I like a flying kangaroo.
Momma can read to me.
I like to play with playdough and scissors will be nice, too.
I love scissors, scissors will be nice and cold.
I want to grow up like a bird.
I love to go to the beach house.
I like to play on the computer.
I love my Daddy!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Leena, Six Month

My name is Leena. I am 8 ½.

My favorite type of food is cheese.

My favorite type of cheese is cottage cheese.

My favorite colors are pink and yellow.

My favorite animal is a squirrel because they are so cute!

My favorite sea animal is a dolphin because

it can do all types of tricks!

When I grow up I want to be a dolphin trainer

because squirrel trainers isn’t a valid option.

I love to tell jokes , especially riddles.

I like to go on my swing outside.

My favorite subject is science, especially animal science.

My favorite movie (so far) is Sleeping Beauty.

I love Jesus in my heart.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Zorg, Six Month

My name is Zorg.

I am 10. It’s my birthday! I love my birthday!

I like getting presents and having fun with my friends.

My favorite animals are tapirs and cats.

My favorite color is orange, but I also like purple and red.

My favorite foods are pizza, spaetzle, and ramen noodles.

I like to play games like Wii Super Mario Galaxy 2.

I like to swim and swing and play on a slack line.

I like playgrounds and playing with my friends.

I like Cub Scouts.

When I grow up I want to be whatever God calls me to be.

My favorite subject is science, especially chemistry!

God loves everyone, including you and me.

My favorite books are The Wally McDoogle series.

My favorite movie is The Incredibles.

I like to play my Didj.

I like playing with Bionicles.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Klenda, Six Month

My name is Klenda. I am 11 ¾.

My favorite color is the color of this text.

I really like horses, cats, and dolphins.

I really like one eyed jacks and bacon for breakfast.

I like grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.

I like cream of mushroom soup or corn or clam chowder for dinner.

I like almost any dessert.

I really like baking bread and making tomato soup .

I really like to cook!

I like Science, Art and PE.

I like reading. Some of my favorite series are

Warriors, Percy Jackson, and Wally McDoogle.

Some of my favorite movies are the Star Wars series.

I like playing video and computer games.

I also really like drawing, especially people.

I like to jump on the slack line, ride my bike, run,

play with my brothers and sister, juggle, and do cartwheels.

One of my favorite times is Tuesday night because that’s Girls’ Night.

When I grow up I want to bake, cook, be a mom,

join a circus, and breed horses, just to name a few things.

I’m very happy to be a Catholic Christian and to know that God loves me.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mxyl, September 2010


My name is Mxyl.

I am 13 years old.

My favorite color is red.

My favorite foods are popcorn and potato chips.

I am a First Class Scout and Chaplain’s Aide.

I like practicing on the slack line.

My favorite subjects are math, science, technology, and computers.

My favorite movie is Iron Man.

My favorite book series is Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

I also like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

I like serving Mass. It makes me feel closer to God.

I like making robots and toying around with the computer and TV.

When I grow up I want to be a priest and a robotics engineer

and a video game tester.

It’s fun being thirteen.

I like being a teenager because you get to watch a lot more movies and you get a lot more responsibilities.

My favorite Wii games are Lego Star Wars and Super Mario Galaxy 2.

I like to draw, especially robots and space ships.

I like to take apart robots as well as make them – just ask Cyber Squawx!


Six Months

Every six months, I take a picture of each kid. I then ask them to tell me their favorite things, interests and dreams. I print a copy and put it in a binder. Five years in, it's amazing what changes and what stays the same! I will be posting one a day from the current round.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Zorg!

Happy 10th Birthday, Zorg!

You've hit double digits!

You are one awesome and mighty kid!

You are bright and thoughtful and hardworking.

You're tough and strong, but not too tough to hug your Mom!

You are a super hero in disguise, but I know your secret identity!

We love you so much! Happy Birthday!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Best

I happen to live in a really great place for friends.

I didn't know it when I moved here. When I moved in, I was pregnant with Leena and knew no one.

I will never forget the time after she was born. I had 4 little ones, four and under. It was hard. Leena was not doing well. In fact she was failing to thrive and we didn't know why. The Emperor was just starting a new job and couldn't take much time off. It was so hard.

I will never forget the one woman who barely knew me but brought me a casserole. That support meant so much to me at a time when I felt very alone.

Things got better, of course. A shrewd lactation consultant figured out that Leena was tongue tied. The kids got bigger. I met a wonderful group of friends. Things got easier.

That group of friends turned out to be a loose community living in Hyattsville. Our co-op sprouted from that group. One of my favorite things about it, however, is that, whenever a new baby is born, everyone cooks a meal for the new family. Spaced every other day, it makes world of difference for a new mom.

One of my friends just had a tough birth. She and the baby are fine, but she'll need to be off her feet for a few weeks. I sent out a sign up sheet on Sunday morning and by this evening (Monday) she's set to have about six weeks of food. Six. Weeks.

I know that a few of them see this blog occasionally, and I just wanted to say: You guys are the best!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Slackline

One thing we acquired over the summer was a slackline. Klenda saw it at REI, and it was love at first sight. Not only was she was willing to pay half, she was willing to talk a brother and sister into paying the other half.

A slackline is like a tight rope, except it's slack instead of tight (there's a lot of bounce in it) and it's a line the width of packing tape instead of a skinny rope. It's generally strung up about 2 1/2 feet off the ground.

Appropriately, it's made by a company called Gibbon.

Several things have happened since we've gotten the slackline.

1. It certainly keeps our monkeys busy!

2. It keeps the neighbors amused. (I think it's because it looks a lot like a police line, but I suppose they could be laughing at us...)

3. The Emperor is getting more exercise.

4. Everyone is getting a better sense of balance. We still look like klutzes on the slackline, but after using a bouncy, wiggly strip of fabric, a regular old wooden balance beam is amazingly easy! (Myxl's Boy Scout leader recently declared him a "ninja," best in his troop, for being able to casually walk not just 1" beams, but also inclined and declined 1" beams!)

Some day:

4. My favorite thing about slack lining? It's not parkour. Parkour looks amazing, but the slack line seems less likely to involve death or serious injury. (I should warn you that you don't want your kids to see this video - oh, it's not "inappropriate" in the usual sense, but seeing the videos makes me want to go do it. My kids went nuts!)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Plan

It's always nice to have a plan to laugh at later, isn't it?

I need to have a plan. I don't have to follow the plan, mind you, but there needs to be a plan. My wake-up-sweating-with-the-creepy-feeling-at-the-back-of-my-neck nightmare is having 6 kids look at me and say, "What do we do now?" and I DON"T KNOW! If that doesn't sound like that big a deal to you, the last time it happened, while I was floundering around trying to come up with something, the kids amiably went off and finger painted. With Crisco. On the floor. That was a while ago though.
Actually, it happenned not long after I figured out that I needed a way to organize my house since it didn't matter how many cool ideas I had for the kids if I couldn't find any of the things to do it with (or a flat surface). Having kids taught me organization the hard way!

This year we started planning with the cloud organizer I mentioned. We put the kid's name in the center and circled it. Coming out from that central circle were spokes for each area in the kids life: exercise, social skills, spiritual growth, math, anything that came to mind. These spokes had more circles listing goals in each area and these had more circles sprouting off for how we hoped to meet those goals. I've since come across this mapping technique (the picture) which I think could be useful.

Anyway, I now had a list of what I wanted to do. I also had a table I made on Word that is just a weekly schedule divided by half hour. I know that our family likes to be able to mix things up. I also know we are better at book work in the morning and that we get tired as we go along the week. It looks more structured than it is. We will switch around days as needed, and when we are on a roll with one thing, I'll ditch the rest of the schedule. Science and History take variable amounts of time in the afternoon, and we will actually skip them when friends stop by.

Things in italics mean that they are every other week (we do go to Mass each Sunday, but the time varies!). PT is prayer time, BT is Bible Time. Ldry is laundry! Office is the Liturgy of the Hours. I couldn't get the document to transfer so I ended up taking a picture of it (click to enlarge).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Slow Tide Rising

This year, I didn't try my usual thing of jumping into high tide when the Emperor went back to work.

For one thing, I was getting ready to go out to the Profession. For another, my sister was planning to stay with us after the Profession (which got nixed at the last minute when everyone got sick, but I didn't know that then!). And then again, after being down for two weeks with the rib, I just wasn't ready.

The best thing that came out of the kids being sick all at the same time, was that they were all happy to stare at various educational videos (in actual fact, that means the level of educational value was varied) while I cleaned and organized the home school room and planned the year.

Shocking, I know! I hardly know myself whether it's more shocking that I had not yet cleaned out the room or that, two weeks after the Emperor went back, I was still hazy on what we were doing for the year.

I did know that we were continuing the mega US History project. I knew that we were continuing Math U See and Life of Fred for Math. The Emperor had come up with directed reading lists for the kids over the Summer. I knew we'd do some Science... In fact we had even done a "cloud organizer" for each kid, so we knew what we wanted to work on for each of them for the year, but that's not the same as an actual plan (which I will discuss in the next post).

At any rate, the kids got better, the house got cleaner, the plan came together and we've started moving back into a more regular schedule. The picture at the top is a science experiment we did this week. Yes, it's the old "white carnation in colored water" trick.

If you look closely, you will see that the two carnations on the left are bi colored. We split the stems and put the ends in different colors. The second from the right is actually bi-colored as well. It was originally put in purple coloring, but it only absorbed blue from the water (and at a reduced rate). We then put it into the magenta cup where it has been turning red, blue, and purple. Very pretty!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Profession!

So, Mxyl and I flew out to Colorado for my sister's Profession. Why Mxyl? He's her Godson. Why not everyone? Partly the cost of flying eight people, partly the fact that the Emperor would have missed his first day of school.

She lives in this high altitude valley, ringed by mountains. It was really remarkably beautiful!

Here she is after the Profession with the Bishop who received her vows and some of her community. She is a member of SOLT, The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. She is the one with a crown of flowers. The sisters wearing gray veils are professed sisters. The ones with white veils are novices and the white shirts are postulants. I didn't get a shot of the big group with the priests and brothers with the sisters!

The Profession itself was beautiful and moving, and I cried the whole time!

And here is the blushing bride! The rainbow behind her was actually a triple rainbow - something I'd never seen before, but very appropriate (their charism is Trinitarian)!

Here's my Dad with Mxyl and my niece and nephews. One of the best "fringe benefits" was the cousins getting to play together. My brother's family lives out in the other Washington!

It was an amazing trip!